Thursday, October 06, 2005

The Death of Photography

OK, maybe it isn't the end of photography as we know it, but we are getting closer to the end of old family photos. Instapundit cited some old family pictures last week. This made me glad my father had been a photographer, and particularly glad he had "splurged" on taking color slides instead of black & white prints. Here are some pre-WWII photos he took that look almost as good today as they did when they were taken more than 60 years ago.

This is one of the earliest photos he took (well, I guess someone else took it since there was no self-timer on his Kodak Retina camera). I think it was made in 1939 at a beach in the Florida panhandle. The slide is so sharp that you can almost read the grafitti on the post next to them.

This 1940 photo is of my mother, pregnant with my older sister (who is now my younger sister).

My father's camera would be laughable today--a 35-mm folding model sort of like a current point-and-shoot camera, except no auto-focus, no auto-exposure, no auto-loading, even no flash. Indoor photos were time exposures (and with an f/3.5 lens and ASA 10 Kodachrome, they must have been pretty long exposures). Here are two Christmas morning scenes, after Santa came but before the kids got up. The first is 1947 and the second is 1949. The third photo shows what that room looked like in 2004.

So, you ask, what does this have to do with the Death of Old Pictures? It's just that the current boom in photography is all in digital photos. These are easy to take and easy to distribute via e-mail or sharing on the web, but they are very "fragile" as far as keeping for years and years is concerned. Sure, the CD's or DVD's on which they are archived may still exist, but what are the chances that machines will exist to read them. Digital photos from 25-years ago were stored on magnetic tape. Most have been lost because tape-readers no longer exist.

I hope if you take digital family photos, you will take seriously the issue keeping them alive so folks can enjoy them in 50 years.


your "younger" sis said...

I agree with you about keeping photos in a form that will be readable/viewable for the ages to come. That's the main problem I have with digital photography. I can't even figure out how to get them to the point that I can get them to the store for prints to be made.

Don't you wish we still had a copy of that old wire recording Daddy made at the dinner table when Mary was about 2 years old?

Anonymous said...

Great life, keep it up!
Jim Earle